Behind the old walls of Benediktbeuern Monastery, spiritual life and creativity come together. The Loisach-Kochelsee marshes begin on the doorstep, with the Jochberg and Herzogstand mountains saluting in the background. A good place to find inner peace. A story by Anja Keul, photos by Angelika Jakob
Meditation and Calligraphy
Concentrated silence hangs over the bright, high room. Only now and then does paper rustle or a quill scratch. Art Nouveau is the theme of the four-day calligraphy course that graphic designer Sabine Pfeiffer leads twice a year at the monastery's own Centre for Environment and Culture Benediktbeuern (ZUK).
Those who are not from the area stay in one of the guest rooms of the more than 300-year-old restored Maierhof, where the ZUK has its conference rooms. There is also a meditation room. Every Tuesday evening, sitting and walking meditation is offered for everyone in front of a wall-sized, colourful backglass painting.
Benediktbeuren: 700 years of Calligraphy Tradition
Course participant Gerda struggles with a squiggly initial, but is thrilled by the meditative atmosphere and the challenge of concentrated writing. Three tables away, Jutta agrees with her. "It surprised me how the calmness transferred to me. Plus the nature right outside the door, the church bells, the focused work, it just does something to me."
The setting for the art of beautiful writing could not be more fitting. A Benedictine monastery since the year 739, Benediktbeuern was already known in the early Middle Ages for the colourful manuscripts of the monks.
The "Carmina Burana", the largest collection of secular and spiritual songs in Europe, written in the 13th century, was discovered in the monastery in the course of secularisation in 1803, even though it was not written in Benediktbeuern.
Tranquillity in the Cloister
The musical setting by Carl Orff made the "Carmina Burana" world famous. A copy of his music score as well as a facsimile of the song collection can be admired behind glass in the wine cellar. Next door is the chapter house, overflowing with stucco, which is open to the public during the day, as is the baroque cloister and the gallery with portraits of leading Salesians on the first floor.
In 1930, the Salesian community of Don Bosco acquired the extensive monastery complex and saved it from decay in a process of renovation and restoration that continues to this day. Today, around 40 friars live there. Because the grounds also house a youth hostel and the Catholic Foundation College with 600 students, there is a lot going on during the day.
Station Path in the Basilica
You can still find silence, either in the "Meichelbeck" monastery guesthouse, which is a little off the beaten track, or in the parish church of St. Benedict. A small brochure is available at the entrance, which invites you to a very personal "journey of faith and life" at twelve stations in the basilica.
Medidative walking in the herb labyrinth
Those who sign up for a retreat or a time-out in the monastery also have the opportunity for personal talks. Father Peter Boekholt, who looks after the time-out guests, takes time for this at least once a day for each guest.
Boekholt knows: "People are pressed to find out what transcends their everyday role in life, who they actually are. We also often have relationship questions and the topic of forgiveness. I always recognise quite quickly what the people who want to come to us need."
If the weather permits, he takes the guests for a walk outside. It's easier to talk outside. A beautiful place for inner contemplation is the herb labyrinth, where you can find your centre step by step in meditative walking.
Barefoot Path or Sound Path?
The young Salesian brothers Joshua and Melad draw strength from nature again and again. Both have focused their training on helping young people in precarious life situations. "Making creation tangible is a major Salesian concern," explains Brother Joshua.
In a project for delinquent youths, dams are built in the marsh. "The participants create something meaningful, feel themselves and their bodies, and release aggression. The ZUK offers guided tours of the biotopes for families, groups and anyone else interested.
Of course, you can also explore them on your own and feel nature on the barefoot or sound path. "And at the frog concert in the evening," laughs Brother Melad.
Many visitors hike long distances through the marsh, pilgrims on the Way of St. James and cyclists on the Lake Constance-Königssee Trail also pass by Benediktbeuern Monastery.
Cakes in the Former Refectory
The "Klosterbräustüberl" in the Maierhof offers good Bavarian cuisine in the former monastery stables. Almost an insider tip, however, is the monastery café, which opened in 2012 and can be reached directly from the cloister...
In the former refectory, the dining hall of the Benedictine monks, you can sit under a wonderfully carved Gothic wooden ceiling from 1493 or in the garden with a view of the majestic Benedictine Wall and enjoy homemade cake. Simply heavenly!
More information about Benediktbeuern Monastery (only in German)
... in Upper Bavarian Monasteries
Archabbey of Saint Ottilien
Around 100 Benedictines live in the "monastery village" west of Munich. Their spiritual courses range from questions of life and faith to retreats, meditation and shared music experiences or bicycle pilgrimages.
erzabtei.de (only in German)
The Benedictine monastery on Fraueninsel in Lake Chiemsee offers a rich programme of courses with a focus on Far Eastern forms of movement and meditation such as Qi Gong, Tai Chi Chuan or Zen. Individual guests are also welcome. The sisters' marzipan factory is well-known.
The extensive monastery complex near Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm houses a brewery, distillery, butchery, cheese dairy and two schools. Every year, the Benedictines put on a spiritually oriented seminar programme. Concerts are also held in the basilica.
kloster-scheyern.de (only in German)